Serene, mag­i­cal Li­jiang River re­cap­tures its pris­tine glory

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HOSPITALITY -

NAN­NING — Ranked by in­ter­na­tional broad­caster CNN as one of the best 15 wa­ter­ways for trav­el­ers, the Li­jiang River is also one of the stars of Guilin’s world-renowned scenery.

Hailed as one of the most beau­ti­ful rivers on the earth, the Li­jiang River, where clean wa­ter flows be­tween scenic karst moun­tains, winds through four coun­ties in the city of Guilin in south­ern China’s Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

Apart from its fame in the world, the river means more for lo­cal fish­er­men and res­i­dents.

Huang Yuechuang, 79, is one of the fish­er­men who have wit­nessed its ups and downs. Row­ing a bam­boo raft with sev­eral cor­morants perched on it, Huang sports a bam­boo split hat and linen rain cape.

De­spite what it looks like, he is not ac­tu­ally fish­ing; rather, he earns a liv­ing as a model on the river for pho­tog­ra­phers from across the world. Huang’s clas­sic fish­er­man’s look has gained him fame and he has even been viewed by some as an in­dis­pens­able part of the river.

Born into a fish­er­man’s fam­ily on the banks of the Li­jiang, Huang said they had lived on fish­ing for gen­er­a­tions. When Huang was young, his fam­ily stayed on a boat all day long.

In­creas­ing num­bers of tourists in the wake of China’s re­form and open­ing-up in 1978 brought ben­e­fits to fish­er­men on the river.

“There used to be over 500 fish­er­men liv­ing around this part of the river,” said Huang Xingyue, an­other fish­er­man from Xing­ping vil­lage, along the river. “Our an­ces­tors taught us the rules for sus­tain­able fish­ing and the im­por­tance of river pro­tec­tion.”

How­ever, rapid ur­ban­iza­tion posed a threat to the wa­ter qual­ity of the river. Au­thor­i­ties said about 175,000 tons of in­dus­trial and do­mes­tic sewage was poured into the river ev­ery day in the 1970s, de­spite the city gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to curb pol­lu­tion.

The ever-de­vel­op­ing tourism has also threat­ened the en­vi­ron­ment of the river. In 2009, Guilin re­ceived 18.6 mil­lion vis­i­tors. The num­ber surged to over 80 mil­lion in 2017.

Huang Yuechuang said the boom­ing tourism pro­pelled lo­cal fish­er­men to turn to tourism-re­lated busi­nesses such as restau­rants or ho­tels over ten years ago.

Huang Gang used to run a restau­rant on Fu­longzhou Is­land, one of the four is­lands on Li­jiang River.

Fu­longzhou was home to over 100 res­i­dents. To cater to the in­creas­ing tourists, most of the res­i­dents started to run fish restau­rants on the is­land from 1998, ac­cord­ing to Huang Gang.

“The san­i­tary sewage and waste­water from the restau­rants dis­charged di­rectly into the river,” he said.

As China has at­tached great im­por­tance to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment has made an all-out ef­fort to re­duce pol­lu­tion and re­store the beauty of the Li­jiang River. It launched a cam­paign in 2016, spend­ing 314 mil­lion yuan re­lo­cat­ing res­i­dents of the four river is­lands to re­store their dam­aged en­vi­ron­ment.

Now, all the res­i­dents of Fu­longzhou Is­land have been re­lo­cated to the city proper of Guilin, with restau­rants closed and il­le­gal build­ings torn down. The is­land is now be­ing trans­formed into a park.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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